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Dealing with Our Older Children’s Failures

For me, one of the most difficult parts of parenting has been learning to deal with my children’s failures. It is hard not to take those failures personally. I know that failure is a part of life and I understand that we can grow through our failures. I just always wanted to encourage OTHER mothers through THEIR kids’ failures – not deal with my own.  

When we invest most of our time and attention into our kids’ lives, most of us are doing so with the expectation of a certain return. I was certain that if I stayed home with my kids, got them involved in extracurricular activities, and prayed hard that they would grow into upstanding young men that never swore, smoked, or partied. They’d be perfect gentlemen, and I’d hold my head high in pride at how well we had raised them.

But then…life. 

Somewhere between the age of 10 and 12, they turn into aliens from another planet – saying and doing things you never taught them. Hormones send them into occasional emotional outbursts that you thought were only possible with “other people’s kids”. And then you even begin to wonder…are these even my offspring? Surely, they were switched at birth. No? Okay, then surely those are their father’s genes screaming a little too loudly! One failure isn’t that big of a deal, you reason. Two, three, ten, twenty, then you lose count. You begin to question yourself as a parent – everything you’ve done, all the time you’ve invested, and you agonize over what you could have done differently.  

It took one of those strong-willed young men to open my eyes to the truth of our children’s failures. 

He reminded me that I had done everything to raise him the right way. He reminded me that his failures are his and not mine. What great advice from that little alien of mine.

So, how do we deal with what we perceive as our children’s failures? Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years of raising my boys.

  1. Walk with them through difficult times, even when they disappoint you. Those may be the times they need you the most.

  2. Maintain rules and expectations in your home. My home, my rules.

  3. Don’t take ownership of their failures. Older children make their own decisions and need to be allowed to experience the consequences of those decisions – good or bad – so that they can grow in maturity.

  4. Resist the urge to remind them of their failures. They know what they’ve done wrong if you have raised them the right way. Constant reminders of failures will drive a wedge in between you.

  5. Point out the good things you see in them. Even young adults need encouragement from the people they love the most.  

Above all, don’t fall into the trap of believing the lie that there is a secret to raising your kids so that they never make mistakes. Know that they will and walk with them when they do. Maintaining a strong relationship with our kids through those difficult years is vital – even though you may not realize it, you still have influence over them when they are older. 

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